I have a review in the current issue of Books and Culture that’s also available to read online. The book is the excellent Food and Feasts of Jesus by Douglas A. Neel and Joel A. Pugh.
Here’s just a tiny sample of the review:
A richer understanding of food in the ancient Middle East can help us understand the Scriptures better; for example, the Gospels, especially Luke, are full of meals redolent with symbolic importance. To understand even a bit more about the food culture in which Jesus broke bread is to understand Jesus himself just a bit more, beginning with that strange claim we Christians remember each time we celebrate the Eucharist: I am the bread of life. When these words conjure a white Wonder-branded loaf or a crisp Parisian baguette or the thought of too many carbohydrates, we misunderstand: “For rich and poor alike, bread was the heart of the first-century Mediterranean diet. It was made every day. It was eaten at every meal …. Bread was what people ate to live …. When the bread was gone, everything was gone.”
The authors’ invitation to “join the feast” is a nuanced and thoughtful one, aimed at separating the reader from “our fast-food culture” and rediscovering the pleasure of creating entire delicious meals from scratch, inviting others to share, remembering those who do not have enough, and, in every bite, relishing the goodness and generosity of God, without whose sustaining hand there is no bread, no nsima, no life.